Election of Grace
God chose for Himself those who found grace through faith
I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
In Romans 10, Paul pointed out that Israel rejected their Messiah even though God had sent many preachers with the gospel message. All day long God had extended His invitation to these stubborn people (Romans 10:21), but only a few received Him. Yet, God did not discard the nation and for a simple reason.
God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, “LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Romans 11:2-4
From the very beginning, when God chose the nation, He knew that they would be a stiff-necked people and only a portion would be true to Him. Yet He chose them as His people. But that didn’t mean He would bring all of them into glory – He would keep for Himself only those who were faithful to Him. If we look at God’s people during the time of Elijah, we’ll see that most of them turned from Him and only a remnant (a few) were faithful. So out of the hundreds of thousands of His people, He kept for Himself only 7,000 because they alone had not bowed to Baal. And as it was in the days of Elijah…
Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. Romans 11:5-6
As in Elijah’s day there was a remnant, so in Paul’s day. In Elijah’s day, the remnant included those who had not worshipped Baal. But in Paul’s day, the remnant comprised of people whom God chose, not based on their works, but because of grace. Recall the basis of Jacob’s election in Romans 9:11. His election was not based on works either, for God chose Jacob in the womb before he had done anything, God’s choice of Jacob illustrated His choice of the remnant in Paul’s day – it was a choice not based on works. Thus, God did not choose for Himself the multitudes in Israel who pursued righteousness by the works of the Law (Romans 9:31-32). Instead, He chose for Himself those who obtained righteousness by grace, having believed in the Rock (Romans 9:33).
So, if God did not utterly cast aside the people of Israel, then what has He done with them?
What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written:
“God has given them a spirit of stupor,
Eyes that they should not see
And ears that they should not hear,
To this very day.”
And David says:
“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
A stumbling block and a recompense to them.
Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see,
And bow down their back always.” Romans 11:7-10
The answer is very simple: God did not cast aside His people; He blinded them. This blinding implies that, prior to their rejection of Christ, they could see (to some extent). In what sense could they see? Recall what the Lord said of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:2-3. These men were teachers of the Law of God, and the people were expected to follow their teachings. Even though the Pharisees and scribes were ungodly in their lifestyle, they could see enough to teach the Law of God. But they lost that capacity when they rejected their Messiah. Thereafter, they no longer knew the ways of God. Having stumbled over Christ, they could no longer teach the Law of God accurately.
I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! Romans 11:11-12
God does not want Israel to remain in blindness. To persuade them to re-evaluate Christ, He has poured out His grace on the believing Gentiles in the same way He originally did for the Jews (see Romans 9:4-5). He showed grace to the Gentiles, not to replace Israel, but to provoke Israel into wanting what they lost. It’s a funny thing about people, that they often don’t appreciate what they have until it is taken away and given to someone else. So God removed His gifts from Israel and gave them to, of all people, the Gentiles so that Israel would, in a way, become envious and turn to God.
Imagine what God would do if Israel abandoned their stubbornness and returned to Him! If His grace is rich towards the Gentiles when Israel has rejected Him, how much greater an outpouring of His grace to all if Israel embraced Him?
For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? Romans 11:13-15
Notice how Paul imitated God’s approach when he preached the gospel. When the Jews rejected his gospel, he turned to the Gentiles hoping to stir up jealousy by the grace received by the believing Gentiles. He wanted Israel to be reconciled to God, knowing that the resulting blessing would benefit the whole earth.